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Why the Jury is Still Out on the Blazers’ Playoff Performance

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

 

Immediately after Portland's season ended on April 29th, the punch to the Blazers' collective gut resounded. It felt as if the Memphis Grizzlies, winning in such dominant fashion, exposed both Portland's personnel and style of play. 

But as the Grizzlies advanced and their domineering style continues, that sting is beginning to lessen.

In some of the same ways that Memphis made the Blazers look feeble and ineffective, so too have they done to Golden State. And that's a big deal--the Warriors are historically good.

Winners of 67 games, Golden State tied for the fourth-best regular season record of all-time. In that span, the Warriors lost only two games at home. In Game 2, Memphis dealt them their third.

That was with a battered Mike Conley, returning to the lineup for the first time since suffering a facial fracture at the elbow of Blazer C.J. McCollum. To be sure, Conley played quite effectively in that game, but it's hard to believe he was playing at his peak.

In that Game 2 victory, Memphis held the Warriors--the second-best team in the league in terms of offensive efficiency during the regular season--to only 90 points. 

In Game 3 the Grizzlies allowed Golden State only 89 points, matching their season low. 

In those two Memphis wins, league MVP Stephen Curry was held to 15-of-40 shooting from the field and just 4-of-21 (19%) from behind the three-point line. Those numbers are reminiscent of Damian Lillard's struggles against the Grizzlies in round one. Indeed, if Memphis can make the MVP struggle mightily, perhaps Lillard should be allowed a little more leeway.

Golden State has since knotted the series with the Grizzlies, winning Game 4 in convincing fashion. The Warriors may well advance to the Western Conference Finals, are are still odds-on favorites to win the championship. Which is to say, again, that they are historically, a really frickin' good team--one which the Grizzlies, with their grit and grind, ground and pound, were able to gum up and frustrate. In simply winning two games against the Warriors--and one of them in Oakland--Memphis have proved they too are a force to be reckoned with. 

Certainly the Grizzlies have proved that they are a better club than the one that limped into though the final weeks of the regular season into a five-seed. Indeed, talent-wise, Memphis are more resemble a two-or-three-seed--a position they occupied for a better part of the regular season. They proved as much against the Blazers, and they're doing it again by hanging with the Warriors. 

Portland--the franchise and its fans--should take heed: As the Grizzlies continue to display their power and potential, the Blazers' measurement of themselves must change accordingly.

 

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